Dear Catalyst Community,
Seeing video of a Nazi flag unfurled at a Bernie Sanders rally in Arizona on Friday was a brutal shock. It was disgusting, disturbing, and frightening. But it was not surprising. Those of us in Catalyst who are not Jewish offer our unwavering solidarity to Jewish communities facing the upsurge in antisemitism driven by white nationalists inside and outside of government. And we call on non-Jewish people to join us in the fight against antisemitism as part of our commitment to collective liberation.
Since Trump began running for office, acts of antisemitism have been on the rise, from defacing Jewish cemeteries and places of worship to outright murder (in Pittsburg and San Diego). Antisemitism is an integral part of white nationalism and white supremacy, as discussed in Skin In the Game: How Antisemitism Animates White Nationalism by Eric Ward, and illustrated in chilling videos of white men carrying torches and chanting “Jews Will Not Replace Us” in Charlottesville the night before one of their number murdered Heather Heyer.
So it isn’t surprising that white nationalists will focus their attacks on Bernie Sanders, and we should be prepared for more of this, as he continues his presidential campaign. The current regime – including its re-election campaigning – will continue to empower and embolden white nationalists, white supremacists, and the far right, who are happy to use antisemitism to rally people against Bernie Sanders and the platform and policies he advocates.
Meanwhile, ironically, we can also expect both Republicans and establishment-connected Democrats to accuse him and his supporters of antisemitism for criticizing Israeli policies and promoting Palestinian human rights. Modern day Zionism has embraced white supremacy, and we have seen this used to silence Muslim and Black movement leaders. Safety for all of us comes from coming together to combat all forms of oppression, not from apartheid policies. We reject the idea that any criticism of the state of Israel is antisemitic, and as we combat antisemitism, we also need to combat the way that charges of antisemitism are weaponized (often by the very same people promoting it) to undermine progressive organizing and to pit people against each other.
As this election campaign continues, those of us who oppose white nationalism and white supremacy, regardless of who our candidate of choice is, have to be prepared for this and prepared to oppose it. This can be complicated sometimes for those of us who are not Jewish, because we don’t always fully understand what antisemitism looks like, and we don’t always know the history of antisemitism beyond the Holocaust. So this moment highlights the need to build our understanding so that when there are acts of antisemitism, it is not left to Jews to name and oppose it.
“Those of us who are non-Jewish, especially those who are Christian or raised culturally Christian, have a responsibility to step up our challenges of anti-semitism along with our challenges of Islamophobia and support for the Palestinian liberation movement. Progressive Jewish organizations are doing far more in this country to partner with Palestinians, Muslims and other Arabs in building joint liberation struggle, and enduring far more backlash (particularly than white Christians). It’s time for more of us who have been raised to think it’s not our fight, not our business, not our responsibility to realize that was always a lie.”
–Clare Bayard, I Blame Christian Zionists/Lets Get To It
While it has challenges for non-Jews, opposing antisemitism is an essential part of turning back the agenda of the far right. It goes hand in hand with fighting white supremacy, homophobia, islamophobia, and sexism.
- Skin in The Game by Eric Ward
- FB post from Dove Kent
- Understanding Antisemitism, An Offering to Our Movement from JFREJ
- How To Fight Antisemitism by Bernie Sanders
- We Must Fight Antisemitism In All Its Forms by Jewish Voice for Peace
- I Blame Christian Zionists/Let’s Get To It by Catalyst’s own Clare Bayard
- Latin@s, Israel, and Palestine: Understanding Antisemitism by Aurora Levins-Morales
- Understanding Antisemitism Resource List, from Tzedek Lab
The unfurling of a Nazi flag at that Sanders rally was not just an attack on Bernie, but on all of us who are trying to build a society that values and meets human needs. This is the time for all of us to increase our skills, knowledge, and capacity to act against antisemitism because we are in this together, and we need to protect each other; because we need each other. We need to act in the spirit of solidarity embodied by the Jewish American teenager and Iranian American college student who together tore the flag from the white nationalist who unfurled it.
Clare Bayard, Dylan Cooke, David Imhoff, Rahula Janowski, Elisabeth Long, Molly McClure, Rochelle Watson, Donna Willmott